Since the 1990s, Lezley Saar has worked with paint, fabric, photographs, and found objects to investigate issues such as hybridity, identity, and acceptance. Her oeuvre, which employs a distinctive visual vocabulary, is multilayered in terms of materials, execution, meaning, and intellectual complexity. Saar’s recurring depiction of persons outside the realm of what is commonly believed to be “normal”—be it defined in physical, mental, neurological, sexual, or racial terms—is distilled from her lifelong personal experiences as an artist born and based in Los Angeles.
Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected) includes three of Saar’s most recent bodies of work: Madwoman in the Attic/Madness and the Gaze, Monad, and Gender Renaissance, along with a selection of early altered books that show the origins of the artist’s interest in literature, mixed media, and marginalized figures. It takes its name from an art exhibition held in Paris in 1863 organized by artists that had been excluded from the official Paris Salon—an important annual exhibition that could make or break an artist’s career.
These painters departed from the established aesthetic of the time because of their avant-garde styles and everyday subject matter, yet they still wanted their voices to be heard. By using this title, Saar alludes metaphorically to individuals excluded from mainstream society, whose depictions appear in the many portraits on view in this exhibition.